Winning The Watercooler Debate

This is a diary for Daily Kos. It is part of the opening effort to start promoting the film “Megadittoes: Rush Limbaugh’s America.” I am now putting segments together that will form the backbone of the film . . . and I want to start generating some buzz. [I'll be getting more active here doing other things too.] With that introduction . . .

Here’s what you do. Pick something you want to see Obama enact. Single payer healthcare? Close Guantanamo Bay? Civil trials for terror suspects? [That one's high on my list.] How about just a public option to buy affordable health insurance?

Or how about something timely? Why don’t you suggest that instead of cutting spending during a recession, we raise taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman thinks that’s a good idea.

Now, walk to the watercooler where you work. Or maybe it’s the “break room” or the loading dock, or just wherever people hang out when they’re taking a break. Just to make it interesting, wait until the office dittohead is within earshot. Every office has one [at least] . . . and I’m betting you know exactly who I’m talking about.

Now announce what you want the Democrats to do. “I think that instead of cutting spending, we should raise taxes on the richest 1 percent.

Now wait for the office dittohead to attack you . . . with LImbaugh generated talking points. It won’t take long . . . and you’ve probably already experienced this. I actually get a daily email from Human Events everyday giving me that day’s way to “attack liberals.”

This is why you’re not getting the pony Obama never actually promised you.

In every workplace in America, and every residential street in America, and every barbershop, and every bowling alley, pool hall, and bar, somewhere there is a Rush Limbaugh listener . . . and if you’re unlucky there are two or three. You know what I’m talking about . . . that tinge of fear you have when you get ready to make a political pronouncement among people who’s political leanings are unfamiliar to you. “Is one of these guys a dittohead? Am I going to be starting an argument?”

If one of them is a dittohead, the answer is “yes” . . because those guys feel duty bound to advance their social darwinian ideology anytime they hear a ‘liberal” idea . . . which is any idea that isn’t one of theirs.

Conservative ideology is EVERYWHERE.

Here is what you, as a progressive, have to offer. You have a list of POLICIES . . . things you think the Congress should enact, single payer healthcare, public option insurance, increaseed stimulus spending, increased funding for green energy R&D, higher taxes for the wealthiest 1 %.

The conservatives don’t offer other policies that work better. They don’t say they don’t “want” universal health care, or they “want” people going hungry, or they “want” to protect the fortunes of our billionaires from Clinton era tax rates.

They say that we CAN’T do these things. They say that our social-democratic New Deal liberal institutions — Social Secuirty, labor unions, Medicare, FHA mortgages, infrastructure like the TVA, progressive taxation — are all “unconstitutional.” They might “work” and they might even be good things . . . but we just “can’t” do them, as a matter of “principle” doncha know.

It is not a legitimate function of government, they tell you . . . inevitably and incessantly, when you dare to open your mouth at the water cooler.

Quick question for you. Is healthcare a basic human right? Sure, you can just say “yes it is.” But that’s not an answer. WHY is healthcare a fundamental human right? Are you prepared to say why . . . quickly, succinclty, and in a such a way as to win over the uncommitted listeners at the water cooler. If not, some of them are going to buy the notion that there is no such fundamental right.

That’s why Obama didn’t get you your “Public Option” pony.

There aren’t enough of you . . . people who believe in a fundamental right to healthcare, and are willing to vote for it. You see, the teahadists were hard at work . . . at the water cooler . . . convincing your coworkers that they had no “right” to healthcare, You were at Daily Kos saying that you just couldn’t support the President, because he wasn’t getting you every last little thing you want . . . without regard for what’s going on at the water cooler, and in the break room, and on the loading dock and in the barber shop. The President’s political team knows what’s going on in those places . . . and they know that you’re not out there fighting the battle that’s going on in those places. You’re hanging around here, whining.

What are you doing to help him sell “the Public Option,” or single payer, or higher tax rates for billionaires, or whatever pony you want? Are you helping to sell it to all those squishy people in the middle? How many debates with one of the 50 million dittoheads in America, did you engage in over the past two years, while you were bitching about all the stuff Obama wasn’t doing for you. Because they’re out there spouting their nonsense to those same squishy moderates . . . and persuading a few of them.

Are you saying not just WHAT you want . . . we know WHAT you want. Why should you get it? Why is it constitutional? There’s a regular watercooler question. “Where in the constitution does it say . anything about healthcare?” [The answer is "Article One, Section 8, 'Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes . . . to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfaree of the United States . . . ' The Supreme Court has held . . . repeatedly . . . that this gives the Congress power to spend money on things like Social Security and Medicare.]

There is a political debate going on in America. It is ongoing, and it is everywhere. You engage in it everytime you argue with a dittohead at the water cooler . . . or you concede the field everytime you keep your mouth shut and let his nonsense go unanswered. People are being persuaded everyday . . . some are being persuanded that rightwing ideology is really true. But more likely they are being persuaded that whatever it is they want their government to do, the government “just can’t.” They sigh, get back to work . . . and decide there’s really little point in voting.

You don’t win that ongoing 24/7 debate by by reciting polling data. “Most Americans want a public option.” Yes, they do . . . but will they show up to vote for Democrats in an off year election based on that? They didn’t this last time out, that’s for sure.

How committed are they to backing up their candidates and office holders? How strongly do they believe in it? The ongoing, 24/7 political debate is where they decide that what they want is LEGITIMATE . . . and dammit, they DEMAND it.

They’re not saying that, right now . . . because you’re not out there persuading them.

That is your job as an activist. It is much more than just to “get out the vote” on election day. Your job is to CREATE voters . . . people who believe in your vision of what government can and damn well ought to do . . . and have to tools to answer that loudmouth dittohead know-it-all at the water cooler.

When he raises his ideological claptrap about the “legitimate purposes of government,” you need to be able to tell him WHY something is “legitimate.”

Consider the debate on healthcare? Is it is fundamental human right . . . and therefore a legitimate concern of the government?

Is the right to life a fundamental human right? Every conservative will say “yes.” Great . . . because people are losing their “right to life” every day . . . because they don’t have adequate healthcare. Is it alright with you, Mr. Dittohead, if we help those Americans exercise their right to life?

You don’t mind if your hard earned tax money helps people hang to their property. Do you really mind if your hard earned tax dollars help people with their right to life, too?

I dare that dittohead to say that he objects to doing this. But don’t you worry if he does. Everybody else standing around the water cooler will get it . . .

That’s how you beat them. Create an army of 10 million watercooler debaters . . . to match Limbaugh’s army . . . and you will create the America you want to live in. It isn’t the policies, it’s the underlying ideology . . . in that ongoing 24/7 nationwide debate at the watercooler, and in the break room, and on the loading dock, and in the barbershop. That’s where you fight them, and that’s where you win . . . and so far, you’re not doing that.

One last thing . . . and I will be repeating this over and over again. You don’t win by saying one really smart thing, one time. You win by repeating a few simple things . . . getting millions of other people to repeat them . . . over and over and over again. Untill everybody knows and understands what you mean.

Stay tuned for my upcoming film “Megadittoes: Understanding The Tea Party And Rush Limbaugh.” It’s coming this summer.

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